The rise to the top financial seat is never smooth sailing, but for Gina Mastantuono, it required heartbreak, taking risks and a one way ticket from her empty New York apartment to a venture of six month travel — alone.
The now CFO of SaaS company ServiceNow was making plans with her then boyfriend back in the early 2000s to move West for sunnier days and take the next step in their long distance relationship, until said boyfriend dumped her.
“I resigned from the firm I was working with in New York — which I was up for promotion at — I had given up my apartment, packed my suitcases and I was ready to leave, and my boyfriend showed up at my empty apartment and broke up with me. As you can imagine, this was a pivotal moment,” she said in a recent Airbase webinar, ironically held on Valentine’s Day.
Instead of doing what most would, and calling up her boss to get her job back, Mastantuono decided to take a risk.
“I could have easily called my boss back and gotten that promotion,” Mastantuono said. “Or I could take a step back and evaluate where I wanted my life to go.” She chose the latter.
Traveling alone for six months allowed the finance chief to not only figure out what it was she wanted in life —Mastantuono went on to meet her now husband and life partner — but also in her career in general.
The six to seven year itch:
“When people ask me if I always wanted to be a CFO, I say absolutely not,” said Mastantuono.
The Long Island, N.Y. native was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth by any means, and actually put herself through college with the help of babysitting funds that she had been saving since the ripe age of 12. She was the first in her family to graduate with a degree.
Not to mention, Mastantuono added, “When I graduated University, there were no CFOs who looked like me — who were women,” she said.
“I always wanted a career where I could provide for myself and wouldn’t have to rely on anyone. I knew I wanted to go into business, which I wasn’t too sure what that meant at the time, and my brothers would say that it was because I wanted to be a ‘girl boss’,” said Mastantuono.
After graduating from SUNY Albany, Mastantuono went on to work at Ernst & Young, where she eventually became a manager, but becoming a partner was not the end goal for her.
“The education I had at EY was a pivotal part as to where I am today. The breadth of experience you get at the Big 4, it was the Big 8 at the time, is phenomenal.” Mastantuono said.
After six and a half years, she left to take on her first role at a public company as director of accounting at Triarc Companies — which was a holding company — before taking her solo traveling hiatus.
“The thing about my career is I tend to get this six to seven year itch,” Mastantuono said. “That’s when I tend to try something different, take a risk and push myself outside of my comfort zone.”
After traveling, Mastantuono came back and took a role at InterActiveCorp as an assistant controller before she left there to go to Revlon, for what she thought would maybe be another assistant controller position, but quickly turned into something more.
“I met this new young CFO and he basically said I don’t want you for assistant controller, I want you for international CFO. Every role I had had prior was all domestic and all accounting. This was a big leap for me, a big risk,” she said.
The great thing about finance is that from an industry perspective,” said Mastantuono, your skills are really transferable and, “if you’re like me and forever curious, I found that at times switching industries can be a great impetus for continuing that learning journey and starting fresh,” she said.
After Revlon, Mastantuono went on to be executive vice president of finance before she was promoted to CFO at Ingram Micro, “the biggest company you have probably never heard of,” she said, where she really learned how to scale.
Her promotion at Ingram, which didn’t happen for three years, required patience, and without that patience, Manstantuono said she would not be where she is today.
In January 2020, after seven years with Ingram, “shocker,” she said, Mastantuono moved on to ServiceNow where she took the CFO post instantly after meeting with the team.
Be willing to raise your hand
When asked about options for the path to becoming a CFO, and where is the best place to start, Mastantuono stressed how it is less about whether you come from a background in accounting, or investment banking or the like, and more about being willing to take on different opportunities.
“I don’t promote people who are not ready, because I want them so succeed,” said Mastantuono. “If you just have accounting experience and you want to go and be a CFO, you better find a way to get some FP&A experience, treasury experience, just be willing to raise your hand and take a challenge that may not be in your core competencies,” she said.
For Mastantuono, this was how she landed her role at Revlon. “At first I was reluctant to take the meeting because I wasn’t interested in another assistant controller position,” she said.
It was after she took the meeting, connected with the CFO and took a risk on the then plummeting brand back in 2007, that she was able to take an opportunity in something way outside her realm of experience.
“The more you raise your hand, the more people will tap you on the shoulder the next time something good comes around,” said Mastantuono.